Ask someone to describe a “millennial” and you can bet that one defining feature will be the smartphone that never leaves their hand. But it’s actually the modern employee who is finding themselves unable to part with their technology.
As the internet advances along with mobile devices, more people are taking their work home with them. While this may seem like a way to be more productive, it also comes with downsides.
The biggest consequence – for both individuals and companies – is burnout. Employees, especially those in online industries, are increasingly expected to always be in reach and to be constantly monitoring their e-mail and other work. But as these employees are stretched to their limits, both their personal lives and workplace efficiency suffer.
The burnout epidemic
In 2017, researchers from Kronos Inc and Future Workplace discovered that employee burnout had reached “epidemic proportions”. They found that 64% of employees blamed burnout on unreasonable workloads and too much overtime or after-hours work.
That seems likely, considering that the same researchers found that the standard work week has crept up from 40 hours to an average of 47 hours in recent years.
Leigh Andrews, editor-in-chief of marketing & media at Bizcommunity.com, says that there is a trade-off between the benefits and disadvantages of this always-connected culture.
“On the one hand, it vastly improves efficiency as workers can check e-mails while on their commute or if working from home as they’re not feeling 100%,” Andrews says. “On the other hand, those of us who work from home tend to overcompensate to prove we’re being productive when not in the office.
“It’s no longer a case of stepping out of the room saying ‘I just have to take this call’. In 2018 we are permanently distracted.”
Tech solution to tech problem
But if technology is contributing so much to burnout, is it possible that it could also be the solution? In some cases, yes.
Employees can self-regulate their availability. When it comes to the ever-expanding e-mail inbox, more apps (including Gmail) are introducing snooze or mute functionality to make sure that e-mails only appear at certain times.
“You need to be stricter with yourself. Will the world end if you only check your e-mails when you’re back at your desk? Probably not,” Andrews says.
Meanwhile, consulting firm Deloitte has launched a programme which aims to teach other companies’ employees to take control of their wellness, providing insights on how to do this.
The programme is focused on the use of online and mobile technologies to give employees the tools they need to manage their workplace stress.
“An organisation that is thoughtful about providing its people with the tools to manage workplace demands and stress is thinking about ways to use digital technologies as enablers of employee wellness,” says Deloitte Digital senior manager Joanne Doyle-Went.
She notes that individuals can also creatively use apps to track their wellness. “There have been a number of digital tools coming out to help people improve their health,” she says.
Examples include activity trackers and apps such as Discovery Vitality’s “true age” calculator. But ultimately, it is also up to companies to find a way to ease the burden.
“The organisations that are poised for success in the future are those that are implementing a strategy to use smart, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC) technologies to help their employees manage workplace stress and anxiety,” says Doyle-Went.